Harry Potter revisited
It must have been some fifteen years ago and it was during the early hours of the morning, walking along Southend sea front. I was out on Street Pastor patrol, helping folk as we did – and it was quiet. I recall getting in conversation with a fellow Street Pastor as we often did (himself a strong Christian) with me trying to give reasons why I thought JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was a great read and more Christian but that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series was not a great read and anti-Christian. My friend saw things somewhat differently and we ended our impromptu debate amicably agreeing to disagree.
I haven’t thought about Harry Potter for some years now and during which time the book series has been completed as well as watchable films to go with each book. It all has been a resounding success and has made Ms Rowling a very rich woman, as well as those actors closely linked to the project. I found recently having to revisit those early arguments when a discussion arose among friends concerning the suitability of Harry Potter books for children. I confess, I can not recall all my objections although I recall being influenced at the time by Christian cultural commentator, James Dobson, whose radio show I followed at the time and whose concerns included its pre-occupation with something clearly forbidden in the Bible – the occult and witchcraft, and that the books (and author) did not seem to share my Christian world view. An article written in 2007 titled: “Dobson Warning: Harry Potter Is Dangerous” provides some of the rationale behind Dobson’s Harry Potter misgivings.
It was a pertinent issue at the time because our son was at an age when his peers were reading Harry Potter books and, while not as yet encouraged by his school, it was something he might have been expected to read, especially as our mantra was to encourage him to read. I recall encouraging him to read Tolkien’s children fantasy “The Hobbit” and the Chronicles of Narnia by his Oxford colleague, CS Lewis. Both Tolkien and Lewis were definitely Christian and as far as I could make out, their Christian world view was evident in what they wrote. As irony, maybe, is that one of (at least) the heroes in both Tolkien’s and Rowling’s books was a good wizard and all three (Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling) touched on the supernatural.
Going back to our son, he did not seem to take much to Harry Potter (preferring Alex Rider, the boy detective instead – although when asked in preparing this article he did admit to reading Harry Potter books as a child). Besides which, reading was something he took to without much pressing from us, which we liked. As for what to allow and what to disallow, one occult related matter at the time was collecting Pokemon cards and my objection to these was similar to that concerning Harry Potter – the Lord forbids delving into these dark arts. Another irony, given we tried to be good parents, including steering our children in the right direction, was at the time my work as a community worker got me working with those of all faiths and ideologies and it seemed appropriate at the time (although some disagreed) to introduce my son to some of these interesting characters who held different views to those we tried to introduce during our daily family prayer and Bible reading times. My rationale was that while I recognised that I should be teaching my child the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) he should be working to find himself in a position to critically appraise and have insights into the world and how it functioned and so make up his own mind.
It is difficult to criticise something you have not looked into to any suitable depth. I have probably read but one and a half of all the Harry Potter books. On the positive side these are well written and decidedly readable, with well thought out plots and in delving big time into a world of fantasy it opens up the notion this world is more than what we see with our eyes and are told by them (the great majority) who are the “Muggles” (void of magical powers and insights). To her credit, JK Rowling has encouraged children to read books when some of them without Harry Potter may not have done so. But on the negative side, I found the author’s style at times annoyingly pretentious, besides (it seemed to me) adopting a view of the world that did not espouse moral absolutes or recognise a Divine Creator we must serve as well as relishing occult related things which like Halloween we may wish to discourage. I have also noted that often the anti-God famous brigade pushing Harry Potter and that bothers me. While magic does feature in the fantasy books of Tolkien and Lewis, I somehow do not have those same qualms as I do with Rowling, because it is clear to me there where the right lies.
One can have fun checking out some of the many views for (the majority) and against Harry Potter on the Internet. Two articles I found particularly interesting. Firstly, “Uncovered: the religious symbolism of Harry Potter” which begins “It’s not hard to spot some of the many literary influences from the Muggle world that appear in the magical universe of Harry Potter … What may be less obvious are the religious themes from Christianity which influenced JK Rowling in her writing”. Secondly, “I didn’t read Harry Potter when I was growing up. And I wasn’t alone” – A look back at religious opposition to J.K. Rowling’s stories — and what it says about the era”. A less sympathetic article is titled: “Kabbalah in Harry Potter” and begins “Continuing my series of articles on the reservoir of influences and themes that J. K. Rowling drew from for the Harry Potter series, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the presence of the Jewish mystical and magical tradition of the Kabbalah“. The author worryingly identifies many occult symbols and themes in the Harry Potter series that Rowling knowingly “borrowed”, related to what some would identify as associated with the satanic inspired evil cabal that seeks (already with success) to take over planet earth.
But in the final analysis, it is for each parent to decide (although if starting over again, and knowing what I now know, I would not be afraid of ridicule and would still be wary at giving my child Harry Potter books to read for the reasons I gave and because we are told to “abstain from all appearance of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22). It is for we as parents to recognise our responsibilities for our children and while we cannot and should not cocoon them altogether, we should look to safeguard them against the harmful influences the world would throw at them, for if we don’t no-one else will.